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Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, and the Harry Ransom Center Partner on Strategies for Born-Digital Literary Collections

The University of Maryland is pleased to announce the receipt of an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up award, “Approaches to Managing and Collecting Born-Digital Literary Materials for Scholarly Use.” The project, directed by Matthew Kirschenbaum, Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland, will involve a series of site visits and planning meetings among personnel working with the born-digital components of three significant collections of literary material: the Salman Rushdie Papers at Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (which includes Rushdie’s laptops), the Michael Joyce Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Deena Larsen Collection at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland. The meetings and site visits will facilitate the preparation of a larger collaborative grant proposal among the three institutions aimed at developing archival tools and best practices for preserving and curating the born-digital documents and records of contemporary literary authorship.

According to Kirschenbaum, “Today nearly all literature is born-digital in the sense that before it is ever printed as a book the text is composed with a word processor, saved on a hard drive or other electronic storage media, and accessed as part of a computer operating system. This new technological fact about writing means that an author working today will not and cannot be studied in the future in the same way as writers of the past, since the basic material evidence of their creative activity–manuscripts and drafts, working notes, correspondence, journals–is, like all textual production, increasingly migrating to the electronic realm. We look forward to the process of examining how to best meet these challenges, balancing the needs of both scholarship and archives in the new textual environment.”

Stephen Enniss, Director of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory, notes “The born-digital archive not only contains enormous data, it also contains enormous potential for literary scholars to pose new questions of the archive not even contemplated in the past.” Thomas F. Staley, Director of the Ransom Center, comments “The Ransom Center is very pleased to be part of this vitally important project to explore how we can best preserve and make accessible the map of an author’s creative process in the digital age. This collaborative effort between the Ransom Center, MITH, and Emory will help lead the way in the preservation of born-digital materials and ensure that these materials are available to students and scholars for generations to come.” Neil Fraistat, Director of MITH, adds “This project will deepen MITH’s focus on the preservation and analysis of born digital literary artifacts, which is already well established in its work with the Electronic Literature Organization and on an NDIIPP funded project on the preservation of virtual worlds.”

Other project participants include Erika Farr (Emory), Naomi Nelson (Emory), Kari Kraus (Maryland), Catherine Stollar Peters (New York State Archives), and Gabriela Redwine (Ransom Center).

Further Inquiries:

Matthew Kirschenbaum

Associate Professor of English

Associate Director,

Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH)

University of Maryland

301-405-8505

mgk at umd dot edu